FA hit by £1.6 million funding cut as grassroots wither
27 March 2014, 18:36
Astana - The Premier League is booming, player car parks overflow with Ferraris and Bentleys and season ticket prices at top clubs have reached eye-watering levels, but grassroots football is withering, according to Sport England.
Participation levels are falling sharply in the country's national sport, leading to 1.6 million pounds ($2.65 million)being slashed from the Football Association's grassroots funding package from government agency Sport England.
The FA, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, are the biggest losers with golf and rowing also among the six sports to have public finding reduced.
Sport England figures reveal a 100,000 drop in people playing football for at least 30 minutes a week since this time last year, although the FA argue that pressure on cash-strapped local authorities is behind the problem with poorly-maintained parks proving too expensive for local clubs.
"Sport England have got a job to do I understand they're trying to get more adults to play and the payment system is fair," FA general secretary Alex Horne told Reuters at the UEFA Congress in Astana, Kazakhstan.
"We have to look at the decline in our numbers playing but among our concerns is local authority cuts, 80 percent of our football is delivered on local authority pitches and we know the pressure that local authorities are under.
"They pass on price increases and that puts pressure on people when they're time poor and cash poor in these tough economic times."
Horne also blamed poor weather in the past couple of winters for driving down participation levels.
"I am not just blaming the weather but it's an indication and it's no surprise our numbers are down," he said.
"But we do spend the best part of one million pounds a week investing in grassroots, so £1.6m is important for us.
"We'll continue to work with Sport England and our other partners in grassroots to try and keep the game growing."
While so much money is swishing around at the top end of the game, with top professional clubs investing millions in fancy academies, the reality for millions of recreational players is pot-holed pitches littered with dog excrement, wonky goal posts and dilapidated changing rooms.
Sport England said the cut was a clear message for the FA to make playing the game, rather than watching it on the sofa, more attractive to the masses.
"I think this is a serious message to the FA. We've invested, over four years, 30 million pounds of public money in the FA so they have a real responsibility to spend it wisely and deliver results," Sport England chief executive Jennie Price said in an interview on the BBC.
"Taking 1.6 million away is a real sign they need to do something different and I think they will take it seriously."
Sport England said the 1.6 million pounds would be re-invested in other grassroots football programmes.
Other governing bodies to have their UK Sport funding cut are golf, netball, hockey, mountaineering and rowing.
"I want these decisions to send a clear message to those NGBs who need to change," Price said.
"This year, we are removing up to 10 percent of their future investment, and we will be working with them to improve their plans."